When I worked in a memory care community, it gave me a unique perspective to see the issues those with dementia face on a daily basis. When a senior first moves into a new environment, it’s probably the most stress they’ve encountered in a long, long while. Getting used to a new room where they should feel they belong but don’t would be disconcerting to anyone. Having to depend on strangers to help them get dressed, get to the dining room and help them with personal hygiene often affronts their dignity.
For those with mobility issues, profound hearing loss, diminished sight and dementia — these issues are compounded. Our caregivers are great at helping them acclimate, but more can be done to help them feel they belong.
Helping Residents with Dementia Feel at Home
So how can the family help them feel more at home and comfortable?
When one new resident moved in, her family made a huge difference for her by decorating her room with many of her personal items from home. They hung lots of family photos and brought her favorite easy chair to sit next to her bed. They filled a book case with all her favorite books and decorations and laid her favorite comforter on the bed. She still was often confused by where her apartment was, but as soon as she walked in her room she would see those familiar items and let out a huge sigh of relief, “I’m home,” she says with a big smile on her face.
Her family was also wonderful to visit her often during her first days and weeks at the memory care. A few would even stay and eat a meal with her in the dining room. Her daughter chatted with her table mates and made sure her mother knew their names. Since her mom has a huge hearing deficit, this was a great thing to do.
Keeping Residents Grounded
For residents with more advance dementia, these personal items can be the only things that keep them grounded. One of our residents went through a bad phase of dementia. She forgot that she lives at the community and that she had a place to sleep at night. When I showed her the door to her apartment with her name under the room number, she often still doubted that it was her room. Then she worried about how she would pay for it. I would open the door and snag one of her family photos to show her. It was often enough to ease her mind. She would begin looking at each face in the photos and begin to tell me who each person was. Soon she’d feel better and remember that she belonged.
Change is hard on us all. For those with dementia, it can be terrifying. Keeping cherished items in plain view in their apartments or room can really help relieve the stress. Visiting often is the best gift you could ever give them. Your gift of time tells them they have not been forgotten or abandoned.